The Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced that it will review the expansion of the scope of medical practices that can be conducted by paramedics in an emergency. A similar amendment bill of the Emergency Medical Service Act will be also proposed at the National Assembly. It is encouraging that the government seems to be making efforts to deregulate for the first time in 18 years following the Dong-A Ilbo’s criticism of the unreasonable regulations in the medical sector including ones that ban paramedics from measuring the ECG of a patient who has suffered a heart attack or cutting the umbilical cord of an infant in case of emergency delivery.
Checking a patient’s ECG and cutting an umbilical cord are not the only things banned under today’s anachronistic medical regulations. It is also illegal for emergency medical technicians to use a manual defibrillator, not an automated external defibrillator (AED), and also to measure the blood sugar level of a patient who has fallen in a state of shock caused by diabetic complications. With these regulations becoming widely known, medical workers are voicing their concerns that the red-tape is “killing” people.
Paramedics are those who respond to an emergency situation. Allowing them to do things only stated in the law and prohibiting any other behaviors when we never know what would happen in an urgent situation is a typical unrealistic regulation born out of armchair arguments. The government should amend the law to abandon the current “positive list” approach and take a “negative list” approach in easing regulations for paramedics. Such an approach is needed in principle not only for the provision of first aid, but also for other sectors, in order for the government to achieve its goal of innovating regulation.
It is still worrisome that the government and the National Assembly’s deregulation plan may fall through when faced by the opposition of interest groups. In last year’s parliamentary audit, the Minister of Healthcare and Welfare said that he would proactively consider the revision of the work scope of emergency medical technicians. Over a year has passed since then, but no follow-up measure has been presented. If it takes such a long time for the government to ease regulations that can save people’s lives as a result, how much more time would other regulations need until they are finally removed? The chain of unreasonable regulations should now be cut off.